With the clamor for diversity and the #me too movement, there’s a critical focus on strong female characters that don’t just involve running around with a gun and a no bra revealing top.
Coming after the release of Atomic Blonde Red Sparrow is another spy thriller featuring Jennifer Lawrence. No stranger to silent suffering characters she does a great job – despite the wavering Russian accent – portraying a survivalist that can see through people but is impossible to read. As a ballerina forced to work as a spy and trained to extract information by using seduction – and for Russia at that – you can already imagine how worse it could get.
Along with the rest of the cast and some elegant visuals, the Red Sparrow fits right in with Cold War thrillers of the ’50s and ’60s. There are interesting personalities on different sides – a drunk Marie Louise Parker, an icy Rampling, the handsome Schoenaerts, and Jeremy Iron’s voice.
There’s deft camerawork, cinematography, and musical score to compensate for the sadistic moments. It’s a rare Hollywood mood piece that isn’t an Oscar-bait prestige picture or chamber drama.
Unfortunately, no matter how hard Lawrence tries the movie is more of an exploitation flick than a tale of survival.
The audience is told that Dominika’s body belongs to the state and the movie never deviates from its leering male gaze. Red Sparrow is La Femme Nikita with Black Widow’s back story. As interesting as this may sound, the script couldn’t make its cliche-ridden narrative compelling.
The plot is repetitive, with Lawrence either enduring gratuitous violence or playing both sides through convoluted schemes. It doesn’t help that she and Joel Edgerton (CIA agent Nash) have no chemistry on top of a rushed romance, so whatever ambiguity that it’s trying to achieve is lost. You’re essentially trying to sit-through perverse moments – including torture scenes, sexual degradation, and rape – in a muddled story.
Red Sparrow fancies itself as an enjoyable thrill ride while making a statement about dehumanization and duplicity. In reality, it’s too disturbing to provide popcorn entertainment and uses the same violence it criticizes in its attempt to do so.
There are compelling ideas here. How people think they know you just because they’ve looked at you for a long time. The blurred lines between consent and espionage. Unfortunately, it’s too busy putting its lead through the wringer.
Red Sparrow is a sensual spy flick marred by a repetitive plot, gratuitous violence, and a muddled story.